Rohingyas pose a grave security threat to Bangladesh: Relocation and repatriation an urgent necessity
The recent deadly clashes between the two Rohingya groups at the camp in Cox's Bazar has posed a major security threat to Bangladesh, writes Aashish Kiphayet for South Asia Monitor
Violence has been escalating in the Rohingya camps at Ukhiya and Teknaf in Cox's Bazar, considered the world’s largest refugee settlement. In the last few days, eight Rohingya, including one woman, have been killed and hundreds have been injured in the Kutupalong camp in Ukhiya in an alleged turf war due to gang rivalries between gangs said to be involved in drug and human trafficking. More than 150 houses and shops have been vandalized.
Law enforcement agencies have arrested some Rohingyas with weapons too. But tensions remain high as more than 80 Rohingya have been killed in the camps alone in the last three years.
Gang war in Rohingya camps
Three years ago, the Rohingyas took refuge in Ukhiya-Teknaf when extreme violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes and sought safety in neighbouring Bangladesh. But now the question that weighs everyone’s mind is that what is this conflict of dominance? Where have they got the money from? Why they had weapons? What was their ultimate plan?
According to various sources, a large number of Rohingya, who took refuge in the camp, are now said to be involved in drug trafficking and mixed up with human traffickers too. Many have left the camp and taken up residence in other residential areas and have mixed with the local population so it is difficult to keep a tab on them. It has been reported that a nexus has been formed between the local smugglers and Rohingya refugees.
According to the biometric registration of the Department of Immigration and Passports, the number of Rohingya entering Bangladesh was over 1.1 million. The Rohingyas were given shelter in 34 camps in Ukhiya and Teknaf camps in Cox's Bazar.
At present, the number of Rohingya in these camps is over 900,000. Authorities are not able to explain where these missing Rohingya have gone. According to the Rohingya leaders in Ukhia and Teknaf, the number of unregistered Rohingya is more than 100,000. The wealthy Rohingya families, who fled Myanmar, are not relocating to these refugee camps, but are renting houses in different residential areas.
There are many fishermen, who are Rohingya refugees. Reports have surfaced that boat owners are forcing Rohingya to work for low wages. These Rohingyas could be involved in drug trafficking as the ocean provides the best trafficking route. In recent times, 90 percent of detainees for drug dealing in Cox's Bazar are Rohingya. Media has reported alleged Rohingya drug dealers being killed in gunfights by Bangladesh law enforcement agencies.
Bhasan Char ready to accommodate Rohingya
Meanwhile, Bhasan Char is ready to accommodate 100,000 Rohingya but many of them are not willing to settle there. It has been reported that some Rohingya drug cartels and extremist groups have taken a stand against repatriation or rehabilitation in Bhasan Char just to keep their smuggling business active.
As easy as it is to keep in touch with Myanmar from Ukhiya-Teknaf, they will be able to carry on the drug trade in the mainland of Bangladesh. But it is not possible if they relocate to Bhasan Char, in the Gulf of Bengal.
Rohingya pose a threat to security
The recent deadly clashes between the two Rohingya groups at the camp in Cox's Bazar has posed a major security threat to Bangladesh. If this issue is not taken seriously, it has the potential of spreading to other camps and areas and could lead to instability in not only the camps but the country and region too. In such a scenario, it is necessary to relocate some Rohingya to Bhasan Char, a low-lying uninhabited island, whose name means ‘floating island.’ The Rohingyas will also be able to live safely here. This will also reduce the security concerns of Bangladesh.
The last task of Bangladesh is to continue the efforts of repatriating the Rohingyas, considered to be the most prosecuted community, to their homeland Myanmar.
(The writer is a journalist and South Asian geopolitical analyst. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)